Novak Djokovic is tennis' ultimate streetfighter

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrating after winning a game against Roger Federer of Switzerland during their 2015 US Open Men's singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York on Sept 13, 2015
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrating after winning a game against Roger Federer of Switzerland during their 2015 US Open Men's singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York on Sept 13, 2015PHOTO: AFP

Novak Djokovic fell just short of perfection this year as he reached the final of all four Grand Slams, winning three (Australian, Wimbledon and US Open) and losing the French.

But his stunning 27-1 record in the four biggest tournaments on the tennis calendar remains an incredible feat, matched only in the Open era by the man he beat on Sunday, Roger Federer; Australian legend Rod Laver is still the only man to capture all four Slams in a calendar year (1969).

With 10 Majors to his name, the 28-year-old Djokovic is primed to chase down history, with Federer's record 17 Slam titles his ultimate target. Here are some observations about the colourful Serb who appears unstoppable at the moment following his US Open victory.


Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds up the U.S. Open trophy after defeating Federer of Switzerland in their men's singles final match at the U.S. Open Championships tennis tournament in New York. PHOTO: REUTERS

1. In a select club

Djokovic is one of only six men to have won three or more Majors in a single season in the Open era (after 1968 when professionals were allowed to in Grand Slams). The others are Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

2. In an even more select club

Winning three Slams in a single year is a difficult task. But two men have achieved it multiple times. Federer has done it thrice in 2004 (Aus, Wim, US), 2006 (Aus, Wim, US) and 2007 (Aus, Wim, US) while this was Djokovic's second time after his breakout year in 2011 (Aus, Wim, US). Curiously, each time it was the French Open that they missed out on.


Novak Djokovic of Serbia kisses the trophy after winning his Men's Singles Final match against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. PHOTO: REUTERS

3. Chasing history

Having moved into double digits for Slams, Djokovic is now tied-seventh with American Bill Tilden on the all-time list. A victory at next year's Australian Open in Melbourne, where he has won four of the five editions, will put him level with Laver and Bjorn Borg on 11 titles and another step closer to Nadal's haul of 14 as he chases Federer's record mark of 17.

4. Show me the money

Thanks to his latest win, Djokovic has now earned a shade over US$86 million (S$121 million) in career prizemoney which leaves him second on the all-time list and behind only Federer, who has banked in about US$95 million in his 17-year career. Meanwhile, Forbes estimated that Djokovic, who lives in tax-haven Monaco, pocketed US$31 million last year from endorsements and sponsorship agreements.

5. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Taking into account 20 Slam appearances since 2011, Djokovic has appeared in 15 finals, winning nine of them, and has failed to make the semi-final just once (losing to Stanislas Wawrinka in the 2014 Australian Open quarter-final) in this period. That eclipses Nadal's best five-year stretch (2007-2011) when he won eight Slams, lost three finals and made three semis. But it pales in comparison to Federer's peak (2004-2008) when he captured 12 titles, lost four finals and made another three semis.

6. The undisputed best player in the world

While Federer's reign of 302 weeks at the top of the world standings remains safe for now, this is undeniably the era of Djokovic. After playing second fiddle to the Swiss and Nadal for much of his early career, Djokovic has emerged as the game's most dominant player and his 164 weeks as world No. 1 puts him sixth on the all-time list. He has also won 56 ATP singles titles, the third-most of active players behind Federer (87) and Nadal (67).

7. But not yet the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time)

For all his achievements - and there have been plenty as mentioned above - determining Djokovic's status and place in the record books remains a tricky proposition. While he appears at the peak of his powers, history tells us that things could get tougher from here. After turning 28, Federer has added only two Slams to his resume while Nadal has been stuck on 14 since he celebrated his 28th birthday in June last year. Djokovic, who turned 28 in May, has already matched their combined haul so staying fit and healthy will surely be one of the Serb's biggest priorities as he completes his 13th season as a professional.

jonwong@sph.com.sg